Why We Write/Why We Read

light of the world

Here are some of the reasons my students write: for validation, for the love of language, to heal, to get their story out, to go deeper in their life, to find the perfect words or sentences to express feelings, to connect, to entertain. And everyone said they’d write even if they didn’t get published. (Though not edit if the chance of publishing wasn’t a possibility.)

Some of their reasons to read: for empathy, escape, to transcend, studying the craft of writing, information, and that reading the right poem can sometimes be like a prayer.

(And a number of this blog’s readers left wonderful answers on the last post. Check them out.)

My favorite quote about reading is by C.S. Lewis who said we read to know that we are not alone. In the past few months I’ve read books I had already read but that have taken on an even deeper meaning in the second reading: Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story,  Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast,  and of course A Grief Observed by C.S. LewisFriends have given me books I hadn’t read before: Kevin Young’s anthology of poems, The Art of Losing, and Mary Oliver’s latest poems, Blue Horses. A few weeks ago when I heard that Elizabeth Alexander (the poet who wrote and read the poem for Obama’s first inauguration,) was reading from her new memoir The Light of the World at Diesel Book Store I raced over to meet her and to buy a copy.

You might notice I’m only reading memoir and poetry these days. I’m not sure what this means but I’m going to think about it.

As for writing, I’m taking my own advice and just taking notes. Many, many notes – in my journal and in the little notebook I carry around with me.  But the next book is slowly beginning to reveal itself to me. For now I’m just listening to what it has to say.

  3 comments for “Why We Write/Why We Read

  1. Susan
    May 15, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Thoughts are with you Barbara. I just read Joan Didion’s boom too. Wow what a story. Cannot wait for your UCLA Writer’s Retreat! Hugs from Karen and me!

  2. Barbara
    May 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Barbara, don’t worry that you are only reading certain things. It is where you are at
    right now-and it is a good thing. It is part of your grieving process, and lets you know
    that you are not alone-others have been on this path before you. Their words can
    help. There was one quote that grief shared was halved-joy shared is doubled.
    You are where you are supposed to be. Hugs and Love, Barb

  3. Sue Hill
    May 15, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you, Barbara, for sharing. As an English major as well as your friend, I relate and empathize with your feelings. Blessings, and keep reading material that will help you move through the grieving process — those types of books meant a lot to me after (my) Bob’s passing. I might not have related to everything written, but each book offered me some comfort. My heart is with you. You are special. hugs, S.

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